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Thu, 09.29.1921

Todd Matshikiza, South African Pianist born

Todd Matshikiza

*The birth of Todd Matshikiza is celebrated on this date in 1921. He was a Black South African jazz pianist, composer, and journalist.

From Johannesburg, SA., Todd Tozama Matshikiza came from a musical family. He graduated from St Peter's College in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, and obtained a diploma in music and a teaching diploma. He then taught English and Mathematics in Alice (on the eastern cape) until 1947. During this period, Matshikiza composed songs and choral works, particularly "Hamba Kahle," now a standard South African piece. Matshikiza moved to Johannesburg, where he got married in 1950.

He taught for a while and opened the Todd Matshikiza School of Music, a private music school where he taught piano. His main interest was jazz. As this did not bring in a regular income, he worked in a bookshop and then as a salesman. From 1949 to 1954, Matshikiza was a committee member of the Syndicate of African Artists, which group aimed to promote music in the townships by getting visiting artists to perform there. In 1952, Matshikiza was asked to join Drum magazine and was one of the first writers, together with investigative journalist Henry Nxumalo.

He wrote a jazz column covering the township scene, particularly in Sophiatown, where he commented on the likes of Kippie Moeketsi and Hugh Masekela, who both played for The Jazz Epistles. Matshikiza also covered township life in his regular column "With the lid off." He subsequently worked for the Golden City Post. His love of classical music inspired him to compose the choral piece Makhaliphile in 1953, which he dedicated to Trevor Huddleston. This was a combination of classical, jazz, and traditional themes. In 1956, he composed Uxolo (peace), commissioned for the 70th anniversary of Johannesburg.

In 1958, Matshikiza composed the music and contributed to the lyrics of the musical King Kong, which portrayed the life and times of a heavyweight boxer, Ezekiel Dlamini, known as King Kong. Frustrated by apartheid, Matshikiza moved to England in 1960. However, he found breaking into the English music scene very difficult. Sometimes he played jazz gigs in nightclubs. He freelanced for various publications and wrote a regular column for Drum entitled "Todd in London." Missing Africa, Matshikiza moved in 1964 to Zambia, where he worked for the Zambian Broadcasting Corporation. Again, he felt stifled musically and took up a position in 1967 as the music archivist for the Zambian Information Service. In this capacity, he traveled extensively, building up the archival collection.

He remained frustrated that he could not return to South Africa, where the South African government had banned him. Todd Matshikiza died in 1968. His son John Matshikiza was a world-renowned actor in television and film. John died on September 15, 2008, in Johannesburg, aged 54. His granddaughter, Lindi Matshikiza, has followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather before her, becoming a theatre actress and director herself.

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